Monday, March 7, 2011

Can I see your I.D?

Are you in love with writing? Or just in love with the idea of being a writer?

This is a question everyone who writes, or wants to write, needs to keep at the forefront of their mind before they sit down and decide to make a career out of it.

I think someone famous said, "If you want to act like a writer, you can ... find a black turtleneck, act depressed all while hanging out at the local cafe." But, I don't know who said it, or the right wording or any of those important things.

However, I do remember the meaning behind it. The gist is this: Are you a real writer or a pretend one? Are you an author because you can't live without writing -- because it's in your DNA -- or are you just playing dress up?

A friend of mine gave me an article to read about a Belgian author, Amelie Nothumb who spoke of this same perplexity. What it comes down to is this: Writing, or being an author, isn't perplex. We may be perplex people -- and incredibly eccentric -- but the simple notion is that even if we aren't super-wonderful writers, that doesn't not make us a writer. It has everything to do with learning, trying, failing and continuing to write ... regardless.

Ms. Nothumb said this: "I found out that the question was not 'am I good enough to write?', because of course I am not. The question was 'am I able to live without writing?'. It is," she says, with another charming smile, "the only question."

And that truly is the only question. If you can't live without writing, etching words out of thin imagination --whether or not your work is published -- then this makes you a writer. If you can live without it (if the concept of looking like a writer is the most intriguing part) then perhaps you need to dig deeper into what it is you really want.

Not everyone can write. Everyone may say they "want to write a book" but that doesn't make one a writer until the book is written -- not published -- but written. And even then, the actual written word doesn't make you an "author" until it's published.

But, published or not, you're a writer when you can't go a day without thinking of dialogue, or character development, or if you edit your minds' conversation while drifting off to sleep. Or, in my case, when the casual day to pick up your kids from school becomes fodder for your next scene.

Writing is hard. But what's harder is acting like you're a writer when you aren't truly in love with your words. Love your writing, and the writing will come to you, on paper, on the computer screen, and always in your heart --no matter the final outcome of those words.


  1. I wonder about this when I hear people say "I can't not write. It would be like dying."

    That's not it for me. I love to write, but I have a career that I really love, a family I really love (and by necessity have to take care of), etc. And I don't write until 3:00 am and get up two hours later to go to work.

    I hope I'm a "real writer." If not, I'm sure enjoying the journey!

  2. I love to write. I love life. I especially love living my life. Writing i just a part of it all.

  3. Erica,
    You are MOST definitely a writer. :) Even if you wouldn't die if you didn't write...

    Mary, awesomeness!

    This blog was a lot for those people who say they are writers, but truly aren't, or aren't willing to improve and BE a real writer. You know, the vanity writers.

    I think most people who read this blog are real writers. :)

  4. Wish writing didn't love me so much, won't leave me alone. :0)

  5. Good statement about the nature of our craft. We aren't writers until we write. And once we have written something and have it published (book or magazine article), can we continue to say we are a writer if we don't continue to write? There never comes a time to rest on our laurels, does there? Good post!